I have an area of expertise with international credentials that overlaps some issues the Church has.
I’ve been asked why I don’t volunteer my expertise.
It is pretty simple.
1. These two areas are within my expertise.
2. I can tell you professionally that the issues are complex and no one has solved them.
3. I do have a proposed solution.
4. The one thing I can tell you with professional certainty is that my proposal is probably wrong.
Somehow I don’t think they are going to be interested. But. I could be wrong.
This whole issue is reminiscent of the ancient Arabic proverb: “Wa-ma fat fat”, which is translated: “what is done is done”.
Without specifics it’s a little hard to say much about this (no obligation to say more, it’s just kind of vague still). However, I can relate. My professional training and experience are in mental health counseling—a field that is scientifically shown to increase self-reported quality of life for individuals, families, and communities. And it’s a field that the Church has only just started to show some tentative confidence in. I had one very wise bishop who learned this and asked if he could seek feedback about some decisions affecting the ward. He said he understood I wouldn’t be his therapist, and he said he would not share confidential information about other people. Even though he never acted on that request, I felt like he and other ward leaders valued me and my ideas, and like they wanted me in their community.
On the other hand, I once had a bishop who called me in and made veiled threats (I don’t think he even meant to threaten, but it came across as that) when he found out I had told people (not clients or ward members, people I associate with remotely) that it was okay to seek psychological safety outside the Church in the aftermath of the POX leak a few years back.
I think in general, it’s best not to offer our professional ability to the Church community. If someone asks for help that only we can give, it can often be okay to say yes, depending on context. A good Church leader knows how to engage their group members’ abilities wisely, if not perfectly, without them flaunting those abilities.
Also, offering professional services to fellow ward members means adding dimensions to our relationships with them. Those complicated relationships have more potential for problems.
I feel that. I’m a psychologist. I, along with others, was tasked by the Stake Presidency to put together a training and resources for Bishops about a particular topic with significant mental and sexual health implications. We worked for many months to find a clinically and doctrinally sound balance of resources and advice. Put together slide decks, trainings, manuals, etc. The Stake Presidency took the finished product, stripped out important, but uncomfortable advice and then distributed it as if we still endorsed the final version. An absolute waste of my time–and the time of so many others.
I’m the kind of guy who, even when I was a TBM, would not go to a dentist or financial planner if he was a member of my ward. I really didn’t like mixing Church-based affiliations with any other aspect of my life. I probably saved myself from some grief as a result. Now that I’m post-TBM, I might actually go to a dentist in my ward boundary. After all, I’m not going to see him at church and I don’t really care what he or anyone in the ward thinks (I used to).
So my answer to you: If you are a TBM, keep your private and professional life separate from anything related to the Church. If you’re post-TBM, go for it.
Ender2k, that’s rough. I’ve heard similar stories from other mental health worker friends in the Church. Sorry your hard, thoughtful work was gutted like that.
I’ve been encouraged by mentions of mental health treatment in conference. Hence my comment that the Church as an institution seems to be more trusting than it was decades ago. I also got to be in a Sunday school lesson addressing suicide in a small town where two teenagers ended their lives days apart—it was led by a mental health worker who attends the next ward over, it was backed up by sound, current scientific findings (I specialize in crisis counseling for kids, so I like to think I was pretty well informed), and it was very action-focused while still including faith-building scripture references.
Returning to the OP, I’m pretty sure that lesson was presented at the request of ward or stake leaders, not volunteered by the teacher. I’m glad they asked for it, and even more that they sought an expert rather than quoting RMN the whole time. I think that may be an exception to my generality about not volunteering professional services.
josh h, I agree. Don’t poop where you eat. My last bishop was a dentist. He’s a friend, and I don’t mind referring other people to him for dentistry, but I absolutely refuse to become a patient of his myself. I don’t need a lecture on flossing from the same guy who signs my temple recommend.
The other side of that coin is that I enjoy sharing my expertise in Church settings. Historically, Latter-day Saints have a tendency to devalue legitimate experts in favor of those who hold priesthood keys (but no expertise in a given subject), so in the rare event that my professional knowledge/experience is called upon in a Church context, I’m usually willing to oblige.
When I was growing up, our bishop frequently called upon my mom (a career social worker) for advice in handling complex welfare cases. He would almost always follow that advice, though he would ultimately present his solutions as being “inspired by the Lord” rather than give credit to the real source.
As a tangent, a common thread here is that not only does the church consistently not value expert authority, it typically expects to get educated & experienced consultation for free.